After the Enterprise engages with the Borg cube, it witnesses a Borg sphere heading towards Earth and then go back in time.

Picard knows all too well the Borg are not allies and any Borg entering federation space must be investigated and handled accordingly.

Why didn't he deploy a tractor beam to stop the sphere from moving?

His ship and others just came off a fight with the Borg cube, they may not have sufficient weapons to attack the sphere, but they should've have held it in place and call for backup.

  • 4
    Because a Borg cub/spheree can't be held by a tractor beam?
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 15:27
  • 1
    @Paulie_D - Is it established anywhere in ST canon that it isn't possible? If so, write a complete answer. I haven't been able to find one.
    – user107571
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 15:28
  • 1
    Borg ships are incredibly powerful, more so than the Enterprise.
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 15:30
  • @Paulie_D - Even if the sphere didn't have any weapons, they couldn't hold it in place? The sphere was powerful enough to break the beam?
    – user107571
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 15:36
  • 1
    @Cadence - From MemoryAlpha: A tractor beam or stabilizing beam was an attenuated linear graviton beam used by starships and space stations to control the movement of external objects. The tractor beam placed spatial stresses on the object in specific areas, allowing it to hold the "tractored" object in a fixed location or alter its position and/or trajectory - memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Tractor_beam
    – user107571
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 16:01

3 Answers 3


Tractor beams are easily shaken off and cannot work if the target has their shields up. While the Cube was destroyed, the Sphere appeared undamaged when it came out of the Cube and headed towards Earth. While it wasn't specifically stated in the movie or in the novelization, it is highly likely that it had it's shields up, so a tractor beam would have been useless.

It is stated, once the Enterprise emerges from the temporal vortex, that, among other systems, their shields are down due to the shaky trip through the vortex. The Sphere probably had the same problem since one volley of four quantum torpedoes could destroy it.

  • Once it made it though the other side, given that the shields were down, couldn't they use a tractor beam to hold the sphere in place and warp somewhere while they figure out what to do with the sphere in tow? They could go off somewhere and never encounter Zefram Cochrane.
    – user107571
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 16:08
  • 2
    Towing something at warp is incredibly dangerous even in the best of cases. The Sphere wouldn't have come along willingly, making it even more dangerous. Plus, the very presence of the Borg and the Enterprise in the AQ in this time period would alter the timeline. Finally, they quickly determined that the Sphere fired upon the place where Cochrane was building his warp ship. They had to investigate to make sure that humanity's first warp flight happened as history recorded it, else the UFP would never exist.
    – Sava
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 16:19
  • 3
    Also to add in this excellent answer, everything happened rather quickly so probably there was not enough time to get a lock on the sphere, engage the tractor beam and play tug before the sphere gets in vortex.
    – Hans Olo
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 16:26
  • 2
    -1. The Borg doesn't use shield on its ships.
    – user931
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 13:57
  • @NewtScamander Wrong: in VOY: Dark Frontier, when the Borg go to assimilate Species 10026, the Borg Queen specifically refers to the shields of the Borg vessels being susceptible to the phased pulse weapon of the species they want to assimilate.
    – Sava
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 14:18

Riffing off Loki's comment, there is also the consideration that there may not have been time to both think of and implement that idea. Quoting the script, which doesn't have timestamps but from what I remember this all happens pretty quickly:

(the Enterprise has just arrived at Earth)

PICARD: This is Captain Picard of the Enterprise. I am taking command of the fleet. Target all of your weapons onto the following coordinates. ...Fire on my command.

DATA: Sir, the coordinates you have indicated do not appear to be a vital system.

PICARD: Trust me Data.

RIKER: The fleet's responded, sir. They're standing by.


(the fleet attacks and a circular aperture opens in the Borg ship and a Borg sphere launches before the ship explodes)

Given that 'the fleet' is firing, it's probably OK to say the Enterprise is at a reasonable distance from the sphere:

PICARD: Mister Hawk. Pursuit course. ...Engage.

Confirming our guess. You don't have to pursue something if you're already close enough to... do whatever you want to do. Tractor beams have a relatively short range, from what I remember.

[snip a few lines of continuous dialogue, no great time passes]

DATA: Sensors show chronometric particles emanating from the sphere.

PICARD: They're creating a temporal vortex.

RIKER: Time travel!

(the Enterprise suffers a shockwave)

PICARD: Data, report!

DATA: We appear to be caught in a temporal wake.

WORF: Captain, ...Earth.

[at this point Earth is put on screen, everyone looks up and gasps, because it looks like it's completely metalled over]

DATA: The atmosphere contains high concentrations of methane, carbon monoxide and fluorine.

PICARD: Life signs?

DATA: Population ...approximately nine billion. ...All Borg!

So less than a minute after we started pursuing them, already they have changed history. What use a tractor beam now?


Tethering themselves to the cube would pose a higher risk of being boarded, and assimilated (resistance is futile, we are borg, you will join the collective, your mind will become our mind, we are borg... Sort of thing) Also, having the tractor beam touch the cube poses the risk of their technology adapting, with their hyper analysis granted to them via a collective mind. It would only be a matter of minutes before they would break free or even find a way to reverse the tractor beam and utilize it as a weapon.

  • +1 didn't remember that the Borg could adapt to tech fast!
    – user107571
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 19:32
  • It wasn't just technology that they could adapt rapidly. But also genetics and biological adaptations as well. Whenever a new race or species was encountered, if you remember there speeches about your technological and biological characteristics and advancements will be added to their already established homogeneous cybernetic race. Your resistance is futile, you will be assimilated, we are borg. (Expect us - I often chuckle over the anonymous epithet often heard in the videos. "We are anonymous, we are legion, you should have expected us, resistance is futile" my colleagues bare similarities) Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 23:05

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